Well Folks,

We're just a few short days until the Festival of the Beautiful Game, also known as the World Cup, begins. As we all know, Northern Ireland, my wee team has not qualified and like me will be watching the proceedings on the TV.

Indeed, it is at times like these that I wish I hailed from a nation that did qualify for World Cup Finals, that was capable of getting to the quarter finals, a team that, in spite of its supposed “minnow” status could become the smallest country to ever have qualified for the World Cup finals and indeed, the smallest country to ever have qualified for more than one World Cup finals or hell, even the smallest country to have reached the World Cup quarter finals.

A team that could fly in the face of perceived underdog status defeating host nations one-nil (in spite of some shocking refereeing decisions, and having a man inexplicably sent off).

Erm – hang on a moment – I do come from a country that can boast all of this. And much more besides...


At Spain 1982, in Norman Whiteside, we had a player that beat a long standing record by none other than Pele himself by becoming the youngest player ever to play at the World Cup finals, a record that still stands. And while I’m talking about Pele, Northern Ireland managed all these feats listed above without playing someone who Pele himself once described as the “Greatest Player that ever lived”, George Best, who at the height of his prowess was playing for a Northern Ireland team that was, let’s face it, just a wee bit rubbish.

Yes OK, the team have yet to participate in their first European Championship finals, but this was in spite of the fact that Northern Ireland beat the former West Germany 1-0 home and away in qualifiers for Euro 84. More recently, “David ‘The Stars in the bright sky looked down where’ Healy” broke the record for goals scored in one Euro campaign, previously held by Davor Suker of Croatia, by scoring 13 times in Northern Ireland's brave, but ultimately doomed, attempt to qualify for Euro 2008. Healy scored thrice in yet another defeat of Spain (who would go on to win the tournament in spite of this defeat at the hands of their old enemy), the match ending 3-2 after Spain having twice taken the lead. He also scored twice against Sweden, 5 times against Liechtenstein, once against Denmark, once against Latvia, and also scored against Iceland. He also became the first player ever to score 2 hat tricks for Northern Ireland.

But it hasn’t always been plain sailing supporting the Green and White Army....



In January 2004, Lawrie Sanchez - he of the famous goal for Wimbledon against Liverpool in the FA Cup final – (something that the aforementioned Norman Whiteside managed against Everton in another FA Cup final) was appointed manager after a run of ten games without a goal under the previous manager Sammy Mcilroy, which was a world record for any international team. The run of sixteen games without a win ended after his second game, a 1–0 victory in a friendly over Estonia, with a largely experimental side, in March 2004.

Chasing the money offered to him by Fulham, Sanchez abandoned us midway through the qualifications for World Cup 2010 and unfortunately things haven’t quite worked out for the Boys in Green for this year’s extravaganza in South Africa but having got all that off my chest, I’m now fully behind the Socceroos.

Although I do have to express my disappointment at the distinct lack of World Cup ‘Anthems’ coming from this part of the world. I mean, after all, who could forget the Northern Ireland anthem “Yer Man,” sung with great gusto and verve by team-members and previous Eurovision Song Contest winner, Dana.

Surely lyrics like “When yer man gets the ball, Northern Ireland scores a goal” has got to be the inspiration behind my wee country’s greatest ever moment in World Cup history on that balmy night in Valencia, 1982.

See for yourself:

Including the famous commentary from the BBC’s John Motson.

“Gerry Amstrong....
what a worker he is....
striding away with Hamilton to his right...
Norman Whiteside up on the far side of the area....
Still Billy Hamilton.....he’s gone past Tendillio!


A mistake by the goal keeper and it’s the 100th goal of this World Cup Tournament!!!

I still remember John. I still remember.